Background: Non-attendance at out-patient clinics is a seemingly intractable problem, estimated to cost 65 pounds sterling (97 euros) per incident. This results in under-utilisation of resources and prolonged waiting lists. In an effort to reduce out-patient clinic non-attendance, our ENT department, in conjunction with the information and communication technology department, instigated the use of a mobile telephone short message service ('text') reminder, to be sent out to each patient three days prior to their out-patient clinic appointment.
Objective: To audit non-attendance rates at ENT out-patient clinics following the introduction of a text reminder system.
Study design: Retrospective review.
Methods: Non-attendance at our institution's ENT out-patient clinics was audited, following introduction of a text message reminder system in August 2003. Rates of non-attendance were compared for the text message reminder group and a historical control group.
Results: Before the introduction of the text message reminder system, the mean rate of non-attendance was 33.6 per cent. Following the introduction of the system, the mean rate of non-attendance reduced to 22 per cent.
Conclusion: Sending text message reminders is a simple and cost-effective way to improve non-attendance at ENT out-patient clinics.